Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Let's All Go Crazy!

Why Not? Everyone Else Is! No, Abq Jew has not been watching the Republican National Convention. It's just way too depressing. 

As good as Abq Jew felt watching the Democratic National Convention last week - that's how bad he feels this week.

Which is not even to mention (yet we must) the horrible police shooting of Jacob Blake, yet another young Black man, for no apparent or moral or legal reason.

Or Hurricane Laura. Or the California Wildfires - no, not the new name of the San Jose hockey team - which are sending bunches of smoke to Albuquerque.

Which is why Abq Jew is hoping and praying to see a headline like this:

Hurrican Laura

It could happen. After all, God has been known to act in history (see Passover). Just not recently. And who knows - if Hurricane Laura did hit the Golden State, would buildings on fire start sliding down the hills? That would not be good.

So Abq Jew will instead ask you to focus on 

Republican Nationalist Convention

As the progressive political advocacy arm of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action announced on Monday -

RNC for the Modern QAnon Republican

Republican Nationalist Convention 2020 Website Launched

“We've always stood for white wealth and power.
We just couldn't say so out loud. But now? We're ok with it!”

 Today, a new satirical website,, has launched to guide Americans to the growing influence of white nationalism and QAnon-believing Republican candidates dominating the Republican Party in 2020. 

The website was created and launched by Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, a leading progressive Jewish organization with expertise in tracking and confronting the GOP’s embrace of white nationalism and antisemitic conspiracy theories, including QAnon. “Building a Country Just for Us,” reads the landing page.


Too corny? Too much to take in? Then let's talk about wheat!


Or more specifically - Rebbe Nachman's tale

The Tainted Grain

The king’s star gazer saw that the grain harvested that year was tainted. Anyone who would eat from it would became insane. 

“What can we do?” said the king. “It is not possible to destroy the crop for we do not have enough grain stored to feed the entire population.”

“Perhaps,” said the star gazer, “we should set aside enough grain for ourselves. At least that way we could maintain our sanity.” 

The king replied, “If we do that, we’ll be considered crazy. If everyone behaves one way and we behave differently, we’ll be considered the not normal ones.

“Rather,” said the king, “I suggest that we too eat from the crop, like everyone else. However, to remind ourselves that we are not normal, we will make a mark on our foreheads."

"Even if we are insane, whenever we look at each other, we will remember that we are insane!"

Rebbe Nachman taught:
Did you ever notice that the further people are from truth,
the more they consider someone who turns away from evil to be a fool?

When there is no truth in the world, anyone who wants to turn away from evil has no choice but to play the fool.”
Or, as Yehudis Golshevsky explains:
... the root of the idea is found in the words of the prophet Isaiah: 
“And the truth is absent; and he who turns from evil is considered mad…” 
The sages taught in the Talmud that this is just one of the symptoms of spiritual ill-health that will descend upon the world as we approach the time of Moshiach. 
When the world is crazy, I have no choice but to be willing to be considered foolish or mad if I refuse to follow along with the mood and opinions of the time. 
It requires courage to keep on the right path even when the world around me believes that I am wrong.
But Wait

Did you think this was a simple story? Hah!
With Rebbe Nachman, there's always more to explore.

A Tale of the Wheat

A New Lecture & Learning Event!
A Tale of the Wheat
A Parable by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Wednesday September 9th at 7: 30 pm

Join us for a stimulating evening exploring a short and fascinating parable by the Hasidic Master and Genius, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772—1810).

Join us in "unpacking" a one of Rebbe Nachman’s famous parables that is hauntingly relevant for our own times.

  • What is the responsibility of the leader?
  • What is the the relationship between a leader and his people?
  • How does our personal and communal identity interact with the flow of history?

Our sharing of this story is purposely planned before the Yamim Nora’im to stimulate reflection and readiness for these most holy days.

Participate in a telling of the story and interpretive suggestions by 

  • Dr Michael Nutkiewicz

  • Rabbi John Feldman

  • Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

This is a CBI Adult Jewish Learning Program.
Free and open to the community. 

Na Nach Nachma

It's enough to drive Abq Jew crazy.
But there's no need to drive - it's a short way!


Trolling Trump, Biden campaign
claims 'Keep America Great' domain

Keep America Great

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Greatest Pun Ever Told

Tel Ashdod 1968: Abq Jew is extremely happy to report that he has, indeed, completed 70 revolutions around our Sun, his favorite star in the Milky Way! 

Baruch HaShem

Abq Jew has checked with his legal team and agents,secured the trademarks and copyrights, and nailed down the book and movie rights. Therefore -

Abq Jew is about to share
with you, his loyal readers -
The Greatest Pun Ever Told

But first - some background about, and a short history of, puns.

Adam Eve
It all started with Adam and Eve.

Puns there have been since the time of Adam - whose name is itself a pun. 

Adam is Adam (אדם) because he was scraped from the red clay (אדמה אדומה) that, as we all know, was so abundant in the Garden of Eden. Adam is, of course, the first man (אישׁ). And the first woman is called that (אישׁה) because she was taken from Adam.

So, you may ask -

Energizer Bunny
How did we get to the Energizer Bunny?

Funny you should ask! Here is what Wikipedia has to say:
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. 
These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or figurative language
A pun differs from a malapropism in that a malapropism is an incorrect variation on a correct expression, while a pun involves expressions with multiple (correct or fairly reasonable) interpretations. 
Puns may be regarded as in-jokes or idiomatic constructions, especially as their usage and meaning are usually specific to a particular language or its culture.
Wikipedia goes on to give many, many examples of wonderful, even delightful puns that never fail to make Abq Jew chuckle.  Here's one:

A Freudian slip is when you say
one thing but mean your mother.

But Joseph Tartakovsky, in his quite memorable 2009 article in The New York Times, helps us understand puns and punistry even more.
Pun for the Ages

THE inglorious pun! Dryden called it the “lowest and most groveling kind of wit.” To Ambrose Bierce it was a “form of wit to which wise men stoop and fools aspire.” 
Universal experience confirms the adage that puns don’t make us laugh, but groan. It is said that Caligula ordered an actor to be roasted alive for a bad pun. (Some believe he was inclined to extremes.)

Addison defined the pun as a “conceit arising from the use of two words that agree in the sound, but differ in the sense.” “Energizer Bunny Arrested! Charged with Battery.” No laugh? Q.E.D.

Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. 

Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies.  

Which brings Mr Tartakovsky (eventually) to Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin.
The true punster’s mind cycles through homophones in search of a quip the way small children delight in rhymes or experiment babblingly with language. 
Accordingly, the least intolerable puns are those that avoid the pun’s essential puerility. Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, was a specialist. 
He could effortlessly execute the double pun: 
Noah’s Ark was made of gopher-wood, he would say, but Joan of Arc was maid of Orleans. 
Some Whately-isms are so complex that they nearly amount to honest jokes: 
Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert?  Because he can eat the sand which is there. 
But what brought the sandwiches there? Why, Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred.

Whately shows us that it is the punner himself who gives his art a bad name, by so frequently reaching for the obvious. Nothing vexes so much as a pun on a name, for instance. Yet even these can rise to wit if turned with finesse. 

Jean Harlow, the platinum-blond star of the 1930s, on being introduced to Lady Margot Asquith, mispronounced her given name to rhyme with “rot.” 

“My dear, the ‘t’ is silent,” said Asquith, “as in Harlow.” 

Tel Ashdod

Which brings us back to Archaeology,
Tel Ashdod, and the Summer of 1968.

Remember last week's A Short History of Ashdod? Well, fuggedaboutit. Let's talk instead about

What Abq Jew Thought Was
The History of Ashdod in 1968

Please take into account that Abq Jew was a mere lad of but 17 when he told The Greatest Pun Ever Told. Joseph received his Coat of Many Colors at the exact same age - just a kid (you might say), tending his father's flocks.

So anyway, here are the two events that Abq Jew was then sure (near Bien Shur) had happened deep in Ashdod's past.

1. Joshua and the Twelve Tribes
came through.

2. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians
came through.

And, as Abq Jew is sure you have remembered -

Every cycle of destruction
and fire left a layer of ash.

At Tel Ashdod: two (2) layers.

Now, the professional archaeologists running the Tel Ashdod dig had, in full accordance with professional standards, used transits (agnostic forms of the religious theodolites) to establish an extensive grid of 3 meters x 3 meters.

The professional archaeologists then used the free labor of crazy college students to quickly dig straight down (past the Byzantine age, of which we already have, some would say, all the artifacts we need), thus creating for all the world to see an extensive grid of 3-meter x 3-meter pits, each pit a meter or more deep.

Sic transit gloria mundi

Which is where the real work
of archaeology begins.

And then there was Fran From New Jersey and Abq Jew, standing at the bottom of one of those Tel Ashdod pits, looking at the two layers of ash that had been revealed.

"This must be from when Nebuchadnezzar came through," said Fran From New Jersey, pointing to the deeper of the two layers of ash.

"That cannot be," said Abq Jew, "for the deeper layer of ash must be from the more distant historical event, i.e., from when Joshua came through."

Continued Abq Jew:
"And that goes to show that
you don't know your ash
from a hole in the ground."

Ta Da

Well, Abq Jew guesses, you had to have been there. But you weren't. Only Fran From New Jersey and Abq Jew were there to hear The Greatest Pun Ever Told

A pun that could only have been told at that time and in that place. A pun told by a younger, perhaps even funnier, Abq Jew.

Calamari Rhode Island

The work of us punsters goes on ... and on, and on, and .... As it must. A recent example from the Democratic National Convention roll call, which featured a "beefcake chef holding a tray of calamari."

Blake News (@blakehounshell) Tweeted:

Was the Rhode Island guy posing with the calamari promised anything in exchange for being a delegate for Biden? What I'm asking is ... was there a squid pro quo?


Abq Jew hereby wishes to thank The Holy One, Blessed Be He, for granting him 70 years upon this beautiful Earth; his family and friends, who have enlightened and enriched the venture; and, especially, Mrs Abq Jew, who has listened to many, many years of puns (and dad jokes, and worse) and remained silent.

Abq Jew has now
fulfilled his promise to tell 
The Greatest Pun Ever Told
Go forth or fifth and promulgate.

Obama Mic Drop

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Short History of Ashdod

Life In Ruins: Have you been to Ashdod? If you've been on a tour to Israel - maybe yes, but then again, maybe not. It's on the coast (see last week's Israel Driving to The Right), but way off the Haifa - Tel Aviv - sometimes Beer Sheva - Jerusalem tourist main line. 

Abq Jew hasn't been to or seen the port city of Ashdod in 50 years, when it was an integral part of his own, personal Old Israel.

Ashdod City Hall
Ashdod City Hall

50 years ago, when Abq Jew's parents, of blessed memory, had an apartment on Simtat HaSneh in Ashkelon - Abq Jew's father worked as a Quality & Reliability Engineer at ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Elta Logo

Oy! Oy! Oy! In Old Israel. But we learn from Wikipedia -

Ashdod (אַשְׁדּוֹד‎) is the sixth-largest city and the largest port in Israel, accounting for 60% of the country's imported goods. 

Ashdod is located in the Southern District of the country, on the Mediterranean coast where it is situated between Tel Aviv to the north 32 kilometres (20 miles) away, and Ashkelon to the south 20 km (12 mi) away. 

Jerusalem is 53 km (33 mi) to the east. The city is also an important regional industrial center.

Modern Ashdod covers the territory of two ancient twin towns, one inland and one on the coast, which were for most of their history two separate entities, connected by close ties with each other. 

Philistine Territory
Territory of the Philistines

The first documented urban settlement at Ashdod dates to the Canaanite culture of the 17th century BCE. 
Ashdod is mentioned 13 times in the Bible. During its pre-1956 history the city was settled by Philistines, Israelites, Greek colonists coming in the wake of Alexander's conquests, Romans and Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, and Ottoman Turks.
Archaeology of Tel Ashdod

So let's talk about the archaeology of Ashdod. Specifically, in the Bronze Age.
The site of Ashdod in the Bronze Age was at a tel just south of the modern city. It was excavated by archaeologists in nine seasons between 1962 and 1972. 
The effort was led during the first few years by David Noel Freedman of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Moshe Dothan. The remaining seasons were headed by Dothan for the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Abq Jew was blessed to participate in the archaeological excavation of Tel Ashdod during the 1968 Summer Season. How and why, you may ask?

Because Abq Jew was on a pre-college, eight-week, tightly-scheduled Summer Tour of  Israel - in the heady days following the Six-Day War. And he had a choice: a week at an archaeological dig (as it is called), or a week on a kibbutz.

On Kibbutz

Having grown up (as much as anyone can) in rural Santa Clara Valley, California (unlike most of the group, who were citified East-Coasters); and having had the experience of picking crops during a hot summer; and having no great desire to rise at 5:00 am to relive that experience; Abq Jew chose the dig.

Crusader Ruins at Ashdod

So. The above photo shows some of the exciting (stone upon stone) Crusader ruins on Ashdod's coast. But our dig (at a separate site about a mile inland) was digging deeper - to the Bronze Age.

Ashdod is first mentioned in written documents from Late Bronze Age Ugarit, which indicate that the city was a center of export for dyed woolen purple fabric and garments. 

At the end of the 13th century BCE the Sea Peoples conquered and destroyed Ashdod. 

By the beginning of the 12th century BCE, the Philistines, generally thought to have been one of the Sea Peoples, ruled the city. 

During their reign, the city prospered and was a member of the Philistine Pentapolis (i.e. five cities), which included Ashkelon and Gaza on the coast and Ekron and Gath farther inland, in addition to Ashdod.

OK then. Let's jump to the Iron Age. 

In 950 BCE Ashdod was destroyed during Pharaoh Siamun's conquest of the region. The city was not rebuilt until at least 815 BCE.

The city was destroyed again by the Assyrian Sargon II. The city absorbed another blow in 605 BCE, when Nebuchadnezzar conquered it.

As for the Hebrew Bible: Upon Joshua's conquest of the Promised Land, Ashdod was allotted to the Tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:46). This and other Biblical references remain uncorroborated by archaeological finds.

During the Hellenistic Period, the city changed its name to the more Greek-sounding Αzotus and prospered until the Maccabean Revolt

During the rebellion, Judah Maccabee "took it, and laid it waste." His brother Jonathan conquered it again in 147 BCE and destroyed the Temple of Dagon, of Biblical fame.

In short (as Abq Jew promised) the history of Ashdod may be summed up as

Build. Destroy.
Rebuild. Repeat.

But here is what Abq Jew wants you to remember:

Every cycle of destruction
and fire left a layer of ash.

Ashdod Marina
The Modern City of Ashdod

On the Road to Tel Ashdod and
The Greatest Pun Ever Told.

G-d willing אי״ה Ken O'Hara pt pt pt
perhaps even next week!

Billy Nader

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Israel Driving To the Right

On Our Way to Ashdod and Beyond:  Well, here we are. We have entered the month of August in the year 2020 (of the Common Era). We are (mostly) stuck at home while the coronavirus pandemic works its way around the world.

And, G-d willing אי״ה Ken O'Hara pt pt pt
during this month, Abq Jew will turn 70.

During these 70 good years, Abq Jew has made many promises - and has fulfilled, Abq Jew believes, a pretty good number of them. But there is one promise that Abq Jew made to you, his loyal readers, that he has not yet fulfilled.

Back in 2011 (see Rejoicing Again) and again in 2012 (see A Message From PBS), Abq Jew stated, for the record:

Abq Jew will check with his legal team and his agents,
and will share
The Greatest Pun Ever Told,
which Abq Jew did indeed tell at (no pun intended)
Tel Ashdod in the Summer of 1968
, with you -
just as soon as the trademarks and copyrights
are secured, and the book and movie rights
are nailed down. Yes, it's that good.

Just a hint, and a tiny forschbite of what is to come G-d willing אי״ה Ken O'Hara pt pt pt, perhaps even next week.

It has something to do with archaeology.

But first- let's take a ride on the southern portion of Israel's Coastal Highway 4.

Highway 4 (Hebrew: כּֽבִישׁ אַרְבַּע, Kvish Arba' ) is an Israeli highway that runs along Israel's entire coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea, from the Rosh HaNikra border crossing with Lebanon in the North to the Erez Border Crossing with the Gaza Strip in the South. [205.2 km; 127.5 miles]
Oy! Oy! Oy! 50 years ago, in Old Israel, Abq Jew and his parents, of blessed memory, used to make this trip in our brand-new VW bug from Ashkelon (where they had an apartment on Simtat HaSneh) to Tel Aviv (where the action was) all the time. No "Highway 4." Just a road.

Lots of trucks, few cars (who except an עולה חדשׁ could afford one?). And not too many signs. We just sorta found our way.

So anyway. Abq Jew was watching the car ride on Highway 4, eyes tearing over with nostalgia, when the Big Question hit him:

Why do Israelis 
drive on the right side of the road?

To every one of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who answered

Because otherwise
they'd be on the wrong side of the road.

Abq Jew says

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Perhaps - just perhaps - Abq Jew's work here has been at least marginally successful. Perhaps - just perhaps - Abq Jew's work here has not been for naught. Perhaps - just perhaps.

However. Abq Jew was, in fact, referring to the historical anomaly that the State of Israel was, for many years, part of British Mandatory Palestine. You know - like Britain, where they all drive on the left (because they know it's right). They drive clockwise around traffic circles, too, which is why they call them circuses.

And, Abq Jew must point out (for the sake of historical completeness), in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (which was separated from Eretz Yisrael in 1920) they also drive on the right.

For more information about just how all this came to pass, Abq Jew strongly recommends the Wikipedia entries for Mandatory Palestine, Sykes-Picot AgreementBalfour Declaration, and Partition of the Ottoman Empire.

For Abq Jew's view of these events, Abq Jew recommends his 2012 blog post 5 Years, 65 Years, 19 Years and his remarkably similar 2017 blog post 10 Years, 70 Years, 24 Years.

For an even stronger background of all this, Abq Jew further recommends the Wikipedia entries for Gallipoli Campaign and Zion Mule Corps (Jewish Legion).

If you still have the strength, Abq Jew must point you to With the Zionists in Gallipoli, Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson's 1916 account of the Zion Mule Corps, which he led.

And about whom he writes:
My chief object in writing this book is to interest the Hebrew nation in the fortunes of the Zionists and show them of what their Russian brothers are capable, even under the command of an alien in race and religion.
 And yes, Abq Jew is a proud owner of that 1916 edition.

Oh yeah -

Why do Israelis drive on the right side of the road?

Why does anybody drive on the left side of the road, as about 35% of the world population does? The World Standards website explains.
In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. 
Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people. 
Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). 
It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road.
So then what happened?

Enter the Teamsters.
In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. 
Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.
Isn't this fascinating?

Nobody wanted to go against the Teamsters. Suddenly, driving on the right side of the road became the thing to do. Soon, everyone (except, of course, our old friends the British) was heading to the right side of the roadway.

Including Turkey and its trucks.

Oops! Wrong photo!

Including Turkey and its trucks.

The first trucks to arrive in Israel (then Greater Syria) came from - you guessed it! - Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire). When the British arrived, and stayed, and stayed, and stayed, they left things the way they were. In a manner of speaking, of course.

And then there's Cyprus.

Cyprus was placed under British administration based on the Cyprus Convention - a secret agreement between Great Britain and Ottoman Empires - in 1878, and was formally annexed by Great Britain in 1914. Cyprus was granted independence in 1960. And then, Wikipedia tells us
The crisis of 1963–64 brought further intercommunal violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which displaced more than 25,000 Turkish Cypriots into enclaves and brought the end of Turkish Cypriot representation in the republic. 
On 15 July 1974, a coup d'état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta in an attempt at enosis, the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece. 
This action precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 20 July, which led to the capture of the present-day territory of Northern Cyprus in the following month, after a ceasefire collapsed, and the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots.
A separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established by unilateral declaration in 1983; the move was widely condemned by the international community, with Turkey alone recognising the new state. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute.
In the current era, drivers in both the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus and [Turkish Occupied] Northern Cyprus drive on the left. Yes, drivers in Greece and Turkey drive on the right. The British thought they were in Cyprus to stay, so they didn't leave things the way they were. In a manner of speaking, of course.

On the Road to Tel Ashdod and
The Greatest Pun Ever Told.

Perhaps even next week!

Billy Nader